We were living in Abilene, Texas. We had three small children, owned a business, and my husband was in graduate school at Abilene Christian University. We won a trip to the Bahamas, and when Christmas vacation came, we took our trip. We had a van, so we loaded the kids up in the van and headed for Florida to get on a ship to the Bahamas. I had a slight cold, but I figured it would get better because we had reclining seats in our van, and I didn’t have to drive, so I could sleep on the way. We drove for a couple of days getting there and finally arrived in Florida.
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We paid to leave our van a guarded parking garage in Florida. It was Christmas vacation, but not quite Christmas. We had Christmas gifts in the car for our kids. We put them back under the seats where they couldn’t be seen and left them in the van. We got on a cruise ship and headed for the Bahamas. On the trip driving there, I had expected my cold to go away, but instead, it seemed a bit worse.
The cruise ship was wonderful. We didn’t have a cabin, but we didn’t need one because it was just a day trip and the weather was nice. The sea was so still. There were no waves at all. My husband had been in the Navy, but this was the first time I had been on a big ship. In the past, the only ships I had been on were ferries that carried cars, and there always seemed to be lots of waves in the ocean as we went. When we went on the ferry between Texas and Galveston, we had even seen dolphins jumping around the ship and sea gulls flying overhead. However, everything around the cruise ship was completely calm. My husband said the sailors he was with would have called it a sea of glass. We spent most of the trip outside on the deck watching the sea. It was fascinating. There were people in one part of the ship gambling on gambling machines, but when we saw that section we walked right through and ignored them thinking how foolish it was to waste your money. We ate our meals in the restaurant of the ship, and the food was good. At one end of the deck, there were lounge chairs and everything was calm and quiet, and on the deck at the other end of the ship, they had an island band and the people were dancing, drinking, and doing the limbo. With the limbo, they try to inch their way under a pole with their backs bent. It looked like fun, but I wasn’t feeling well, so I went back to the part of the ship where there were lounge chairs. I met another lady who had kids, but she also had a nanny. She didn’t have to watch her kids at all, and she took off and did the limbo with the rest of them.
When we got to the Bahamas, we were shown to our hotel, but before we went into our rooms, they insisted on giving a lecture about all the things we were going to do on our trip. They kept talking about things like couples sneaking off and having sex on the beach and saying it was very acceptable, and I wished they would be quiet, and it was too much information. Everything looked very tropical with palm trees swaying in the calm wind. My cold was getting the best of me, and I just wanted to go to my room and lay down. I met an older woman who said that she was headed home. She had a bag of grapefruit that she didn’t want to take with her and had been unable to finish and offered it to me. I told her I didn’t like grapefruit because it was too sour. She told me that I only thought that because I had been buying the grapefruit out of the grocery store, but these grapefruit had been given a chance to ripen before they picked them, and they weren’t sour at all. I let her give me the grapefruit thinking I would probably not eat it, but I would try since she was so convinced. When I finally tried it, I was thrilled that she had given it to me!! She was right! They were even better than oranges! We had a whole bag for the family to munch on, and we enjoyed them. They finally stopped lecturing and let us go to our rooms, and I went to sleep.
The next morning, we were told that we could have free breakfast if we would listen to their spill while we ate, so we let them talk, and they were trying to sell time shares that we had no interest in buying. A time share is where you buy part of a vacation home and others buy it too, and you can only go there at certain times, and the others go there during their times. The breakfast was an extremely nice breakfast. After breakfast, we headed for the beach. I normally spent a lot of time playing and swimming on the beach, but all I wanted to do was lay on the beach because I wasn’t feeling well. I wished I had gone to the doctor and gotten antibiotics before I came on the trip, but I thought my cold would go away, not get worse. My husband and my kids had a good time playing at the beach while I laid on the beach. A lady came by wanting to braid my hair and put beads in it, so I let her. I had corn ribs and beads in my hair. Close to us, there were two guys from the Bahamas talking to one another like they were sparing. As I listened, I realized I had heard that form of communication somewhere before. It dawned on me that these guys were talking to each other just the same way the Nigerians had talked to one another. I realized that the ancestors of the people in the islands had been slaves brought several generations ago from Nigeria to the Americas, and they weren’t slaves anymore, but they still carried a lot of the Nigerian culture. Blacks in the U. S. that I had gotten to know didn’t talk to one another that way, but somehow these guys in the Bahamas had preserved the way they talked to one another through the generations.
We went back to the hotel and ate lunch at the restaurant, and then we went with a tour group around the island. We all got in a van, and the drove us around the island. It was very small, and there wasn’t that much happening, and it didn’t take long to see the island. There were lots of beaches. There were occasional shacks here and there. There were open markets, and one was the straw market. I wanted to go to the straw market to buy souvenirs.
When we came back, we found an interesting restaurant with sea food close to the hotel and had dinner. We walked, and on the way back, we were approached by a guy with a bag full of huge conk shells and star fish. He had been diving and had retrieved the shells and star fish from the ocean himself. He was selling his shells and star fish. They still had sea weed all over them. He said all we had to do was soak them in bleach water overnight, and they would be clean and pretty. They were cheaper than buying the nice ones that had already been cleaned, so we bought a couple of big shells and a star fish and took them back to the hotel with us. I was really tired when we got back to the hotel and really ready to sleep. Some of the others from our tour group encouraged us to go with them because everyone was partying, but I had a cold and had small children, so I opted to go to bed early.
The next day, we did another time share breakfast. After breakfast, we went to the straw market. I bought myself a huge straw hat. I also bought a purse type basket. I can’t remember what all we bought, but we really liked the souvenirs at the straw market. After that, we went back to the beach. Someone from our group saw me with my corn ribs and straw hat and laughed. He began calling me “Bahama Mama.” Basically, we spent several days eating good fish at restaurants, listening to time share people, and lying around on the beach as the kids played in the sand and the waves. I wanted to swim and play too, but my cold just got the best of me. When we went back to the hotel, we were still snacking on the grapefruit the lady gave us the first day and really appreciating it because it tasted so good.
Eventually, it was time to get back on the ship and go back to Florida. The guy from our tour group was still hollering out “Bahama Mama” every time he saw me. I didn’t know it at the time, but I learned that “Bahama Mama” was a kind of alcoholic drink, but there I was with three small kids, corn ribs, and a big straw hat and sun glasses, and that became my nick name from the other members of our tour group. They had the Caribbean band playing all the way back to Florida again and did the limbo again. I loved the music! I also loved to watch the sea. We finally made it back to Florida.
When we got off the ship and went to our van, someone had broken into our van. They broke the window on my side and got in and took all the Christmas presents. We called the police, and they came out to look at it. They said that people broke into vans more often than any other kind of vehicle. They also said there was no chance of ever getting our things back. We had to cover my window with plastic until we got home. We had won tickets to go to Disney World along with the tickets to the Bahamas, so we spent a few days at Disney World before we went home. I spent my time at Disney World laying down in the infirmary while my husband and kids road the rides because I had a bad cold. My oldest son was with me laying down too because he had a stomach ache.
When we got back to Abilene, someone had broken into our house. They stole our VCR. Yes, not a DVD player because this was in the 1980’s, and we were still playing videos. My baby son’s favorite nursery rhyme video was still in the VCR when they stole it. Our computer was so old that no one wanted it, so they left it there and took my electric typewriter. They went into our bedroom, and I had pearls that had been given to me by the family of the Japanese exchange student who had stayed at our house, and they were gone. I had a necklace from India, and it was gone. My class ring was gone, and I had big beautiful Indian arrow head I had found when we were in the country in Oklahoma, and it was gone. They pulled our dresser out and looked behind it and just left it that way. The whole house was trashed. You could tell they were looking for something, but there was nothing for them to find except we had a bag of money we kept for change from our business, and it was under the dresser and moved with the dresser as they pushed it away from the wall, and they didn’t find it. We called the police. They took the report, but never bothered to look for any of the stuff or tried to find who had broken into our house. They thought someone was looking for money to buy drugs. They thought it was probably someone we knew because they knew we would be out of town. One of the neighbors described seeing a guy that sounded like one of my son’s karate teachers, but they never caught the guy who did it. The police didn’t even try just like they didn’t try in Florida. The police didn’t care. We were planning on going overseas again, and all we could think was, “It happened in America. When someone breaks into our house in a foreign country, people can’t say to us that it was because we were overseas and that it didn’t happen in America because people had stolen from us twice that Christmas.” We had fun in the Bahamas, but the homecoming was not fun.